Chinese fear getting old

Beijing, October 3:

“Those who have borne a son can quietly grow old,” is an oft-repeated Chinese saying. But in a rapidly ageing society, many Chinese find themselves overwhelmed by the financial responsibility for their parents.

“My parents are relying on my help. But I don’t know where the money will be coming from,” complains Zhang Jinrong. “I scarcely earn enough money to support myself.” A year ago, the 25-year-old employee of an investment company came to Beijing from Lanzhou, capital of the western province Gansu — in hopes of earning enough money to be able to support his retired parents since China lacks a comprehensive retirement system.

His parents are relatively better off. As a former civil servant, his father gets a monthly pension of 700 yuan ($93). His mother lost her pension entitlements when the company where she was a bookkeeper was privatised and she was dismissed. All she can claim is state support of 200 yuan. The parents’ money barely covers the rent.

“Especially in cities it is far too little,” Zhang says with a note of resignation in his voice. “Beside which, many people receive nothing at all.” According to state statistics, the average monthly retirement pension is 963 yuan.